Our Kind Of University

As we prepare for our semester break and holiday season I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your continued excellence in educating our students and to wish you a safe and joyous holiday.  It’s been a busy semester marked by continued reflection on one major question that lies at the center of all that we do — what kind of university should we be?
Politicians from the national to the local level are pushing for more Americans to earn a college degree.  Many say that all public universities should expand their enrollment and start reallocating resources from everywhere to push for more STEM-H graduates.  While having more citizens with a college degree is a worthy and noble goal, I don’t believe that education is the same as widget production.  I believe that the diversity of options, both in what to major in along with what type of institution to attend, is what makes our system of higher education (and our nation) strong and distinctive.  I find it ironic that some seem intent upon holding on to outdated ideas of mass production when much of the world is valuing our educational system for producing free thinkers, inventors, and innovators.

It is critical to understand, and emphasize, who we are.  We are the public alternative to a private liberal arts education.  We have small classes.  We have faculty who engage in valuable cutting edge research with undergraduates, not so that they will be known as world class researchers but to prepare students who will go on to graduate training and may themselves become world class researchers.  The number of graduates who leave Mary Washington with a degree in STEM field is outstanding (about 19% of the College of Arts and Sciences graduates each year have majored in a STEM discipline).  Those who major in other disciplines are equally if not more important because the future career options available in the evolving “knowledge economy” are likely to be in fields yet to be defined.  Those graduates, our graduates, who are liberally educated, adaptable, and who possess the core value of lifelong learning will prosper and excel.

There is a place and function for every form of university — major research institutions, liberal arts institutions, vocational and technical schools, and so forth.  It is important to know who we are and to keep moving to be the best at what we do.  A healthy America demands more educated citizens but education is not the same as disposable gloves.  One size does not fit all. You should know that the president and I will to continue educate policy makers in the value of the public liberal arts education and its important place in the mix of higher education that our nation and the global economy need.

As I look back over the past semester I am proud to be associated with the men and women who dedicate their lives into making this institution the best public liberal arts institution.   Thank you again for your engaged and continuing efforts.

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